Stage and screen actress Constance Cummings (pictured) died on Wednesday this week (23 November 2005) at the age of 95. The American-born star spent most of her career on the London stage, working in the West End and at the National Theatre, as well as in Hollywood.

Born in Seattle on 15 May 1910, Cummings had ambitions of becoming a classical dancer, but after beginning her career as a Broadway chorus girl she quickly moved on to movies. Her first film, The Criminal Code with Walter Huston, was a success. She went on to have roles in more than 14 Hollywood pictures, including starring as Elvira alongside Rex Harrison in David Lean’s 1945 film of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.

Her most celebrated stage roles include Long Day's Journey Into Night opposite Laurence Olivier, and Wings, a solo performance, at the National Theatre in the 1970s. She also played classical roles such as Shakespeare’s Juliet to great acclaim.

In the West End, her credits include Sour Grapes, Young Madame Conti, Emma Bovary, Goodbye Mr Chips, Sky Lark, The Petrified Forest and The Jealous God, as well as Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (at the Piccadilly in 1964) and Coward's Fallen Angels

In 1933 she was married to the playwright Benn Levy (who died in 1973), and appeared in many of his plays and adaptations. She continued acting throughout her life, and in her 90th year she was touring in Uncle Vanya.

She was awarded the CBE in 1974 and served on committees for the Arts Council and the Royal Court Theatre.

Cummings is survived by her two children.

- by Caroline Ansdell